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US lawmakers look to lock in $50 billion military aid to Ukraine before January

File photo of US military supplies being shipped to Ukraine

Amid skepticism that a new Congress could withhold military aid to Ukraine, lawmakers from both major US parties are looking to lock in billions of dollars in military assistance to Kiev before new members are sworn in in January.

The package being contemplated would be “dramatically larger” than the $12 billion in military and economic aid the US Congress approved last month for Ukraine, NBC News reported on Thursday, citing a lawmaker and congressional aides on condition of anonymity.

The amount would be enough “to make sure [Ukraine] can get through the year,” a Republican senator was cited in the report. “It’ll make the $12 billion look like pocket change.”

“The new aid package, which most likely would be part of an omnibus spending bill, could be within the range of roughly $50 billion,” the report added, citing congressional aides and a source close to the Ukrainian government.

US Congress has allocated a total of $65 billion in funding for Kiev since Russia began its military operation in Ukraine in late February, according to the report, which also noted that the Biden administration has not yet made a formal request for new funding.

Pointing to “concerns that a new Congress could take a more skeptical view of aid to Ukraine,” the US broadcaster underlined that both Republican and Democratic legislators currently in power are looking to lock in the huge military aid package before the new members – due to be elected in the upcoming midterm elections on November 7 -- take office in January.

It also noted that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who is expected to take over as speaker of the chamber amid projections that the Republican hopefuls will win the majority of the House seats in the November polls, warned this week that his fellow party members are “not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.”

“With that threat to Ukraine aid looming, the bipartisan idea under consideration would use a government funding bill during the lame-duck session after the midterms to secure a much higher level of military and other assistance than prior aid packages for Ukraine,” the report added, citing sources.

The development comes as many Republican candidates endorsed by former hawkish President Donald Trump have challenged the amount of American aid already shipped to Ukraine, arguing that the US has more pressing domestic issues and that the fate of Ukraine is not tied to American national interests and that European allies should be delivering a larger share of weapons and other aids to Kiev.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden attacked the position of Republican politicians on Ukraine Thursday evening.

"They said that if they win they’re not likely to fund, to continue to fund Ukraine," he remarked. “These guys don’t get it. It’s a lot bigger than Ukraine. It’s Eastern Europe. It’s NATO. It’s really serious, serious consequential outcomes.”

Right-wing House Republican lawmakers, however, argue that America needs to shore up its southern border and address illegal immigration before worrying about Ukraine’s border with Russia.

“My constituents are saying, ‘Why are we more worried about Ukraine’s borders than we are about America’s borders?’ My constituents are not sitting there going, ‘Gosh, we have to save Ukraine’s borders,’” said Republican Congressman Warren Davidson of Ohio, a member of the Trump-aligned Freedom Caucus, in an interview.

Similarly, another conservative Republican congressman, Kat Cammack of Florida, said while her heart breaks for the Ukrainian people, she has not voted for recent Ukraine aid packages and isn’t inclined to do so next year if Republicans take control of the House, as most US polls predict.

“I liken it to the airline videos they do before you take off: You need to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others,” Cammack said in an NBC News interview. “And I just don’t think -- as a legislator -- that I could, in good conscience, support billions and billions of funding going overseas when we have such dire needs here.”

Kiev forces shell bridge, kill four in Kherson: Pro-Moscow official

Meanwhile, pro-Russian authorities in Ukraine's southern Kherson region declared on Friday that Ukrainian forces killed four people after shelling the Antonivskiy bridge over the Dnipro river that was used for evacuations.

"Four people were killed," said a pro-Moscow official identified as Kirill Stremousov on his Telegram social media account.  "The city of Kherson, like a fortress, is preparing for its defense."

Stremousov further asserted on Thursday that 15,000 people had crossed the river in evacuations organized by the Russia-backed forces.

He said Russia will not give up Kherson, emphasizing that the city "will hold on until the last (man), believe me nobody is intending to give up the city."

Pro-Russia forces have urged civilians to cross to the left bank of the Dnipro river in the face of a Ukrainian counter-offensive in what Kiev has alleged as "deportations" of Ukrainian citizens.

The Russian-backed administration of Kherson further explained in a statement overnight that Kiev had fired "12 [US-supplied] HIMARS rockets at a civilian crossing near the Antonivsky Bridge."

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